Calamity Jane (1852-1903)

Calamity Jane (1852-1903)


  • Calamity Jane was born Martha Jane Canary / Cannary in Missouri, 1852.
  • This infamous dare-devil pioneer woman often cross-dressed as a man.
  • She was the oldest of six children born to a gambler and a prostitute.
  • When orphaned (between the ages of 12 – 14) she looked after her younger siblings.  At various times she was employed as a cook, dishwasher, waitress, dance-hall girl, nurse, scout, ox-team driver, and prostitute.
  • Calamity Jane was illiterate and an alcoholic.
  • She married twice and had two daughters.  Claims that she also wed Wild Bill Hickok were fabricated.
  • Her fame came from being both a coarse-mouthed sharp-shooter, but also as a kindly nurse.
  • She attended the sick in Deadwood during a smallpox epidemic, and is said to have rescued a stage-coach from a Cheyenne attack.
  • Claims that she fought in the Indian Wars have not been substantiated.
  • Calamity Jane was acquainted with Wild Bill Hickok and friends with Buffalo Bill Cody.
  • She performed in Cody’s Wild West Show and also appeared in the 1901 Pan-American Exposition.
  • She died in South Dakota in 1903.
  • In accordance with her own wishes, she was buried next to Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood.
  • There are several theories how the nickname “Calamity Jane” came about.  She warned that to offended her was to “court calamity.” But as “the calamity” was also a pseudonym for venereal disease (usually syphilis), she may have acquired this title from working in brothels.

Sources: “Calamity Jane,” at

Jane, Calamity.  The Autobiography of Calamity Jane.

Wikipedia, “Calamity Jane,” at

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